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Thinking "outside the tray" by local chef is helping nutrition of Hope, Arkansas students

A nutritious meal that tastes great is the goal of Hope Public Schools for the 2019-2020 school year to improve the standard of nutrition among students.

The goal of the new leadership team in the kitchens on the Hope Public Schools campuses is fresh fun that thinks outside the lunch tray.

Aramark Food Services Director for HPS Cortney Nutt and Aramark HPS Executive Chef Nicholas Collins are new to HPS Child Nutrition Services as part of a food services operations agreement between Aramark and the HPS.

Nutt is a native of Glen Rose, Ar., and currently resides in Friendship. She is a 2007 graduate of Glen Rose High School. Nutt is presently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in culinary business management from Arizona State University.

She brings practical experience to the kitchens in the HPS, having worked as an Assistant Director in food services for four years with Chartwells, a nationally-known food services company.

Nutt has been employed by Philadelphia, Pa., based Aramark for a year, before taking the assignment in Hope.

She previously spent time pursuing a career in law enforcement, working as a Correctional Officer for the Arkansas Department of Corrections. After five years, she decided to take a different career path. She chose food service.

“It was an easy go-to because I had the experience from my high school days,” Nutt said.
Her philosophy is one of providing the best opportunity for students which HPS offers.

“It’s free; so, why would they not want it?” Nutt said.

Nutt is an Arkansas Department of Education Certified Child Nutrition Manager. She wants to use that expertise to innovate so that meals in the HPS are not your daddy’s line-up and feed them.

“I want to bring in fresh things and new ideas,” she said.

Nutt enjoys working with her dogs, crafting and coaching youth soccer in her off time.

“My kids all play sports,” she said.

Nutt and her husband, Clay, an employee of Alcoa, are the parents of three children, Aric, Cora, and Macy.

Aramark HPS Executive Chef Nicholas Collins is a 2017 graduate of Hope High School. He holds an Associate Degree in culinary services from Texarkana College, conferred this year.

Collins has learned the practical side of culinary service working at McDonald's of Hope for three and a half years during high school, and at El Agaves Mexican Restaurant before graduation and a stint as executive chef at Holiday Inn-Texarkana.

Collins gained his passion for culinary service from family roots.

“My grandmother owned a small family eatery in New Orleans, May’s Kitchen,” he said. “I used to be on a step stool in the kitchen, stirring gumbo all the time.”

After his father’s passing in 2012, Collins decided to follow his steps from those roots in New Orleans. He found the culinary service program at HHS afterward.

“Mrs. Gloria Merrick motivated me to go into the program,” Collins said.

Providing planning, preparation, and presentation services for the district through Aramark allows Collins to put some spin on the plate.

“We want to put a spin on things to make it fresher and exciting for the students,” he said.

Active in cheer in high school, Collins remains a supporter of the HHS cheer program in his off time.

Aramark is a worldwide customer services business including food, facilities, and uniforms services, founded in Los Angeles, Calif., in 1936 by Davre Davidson and his brother as Davidson Brothers Vending Co.
Cortney Nutt, left, HPS Aramark Food Services Director, and Nicholas Collins, center, Hope Public Schools Aramark Executive Chef, are the leadership for Aramark services provided to the Hope Public Schools. Sandra Calhoun right is kitchen manager for Clinton Primary School. Story and photo by Ken McLemore of Hope Public Schools.

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